Although there have been great strides in advancing gender equality the past decades, we live in a time where there are overarching challenges which disproportionally affects women and girls.
We know that the pandemic has, and still does, disproportionately affect women.
We know that women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict.
And - we know that that women are disproportionately affected by climate change.
It is therefore imperative to continue the advancement of women, as well as remedy the particular challenges of our times. We must apply a gender-lens in all policy-decisions across sectors.
For Norway, protecting women and girls’ rights, including their right to decide over their own bodies, is a key priority in our international efforts for gender equality. It is important in its own right, but also as part of protecting fundamental freedoms more broadly.
Unfortunately, we are increasingly witnessing a global democratic backsliding, with women’s rights and gender equality under attack. In many places, there is a weakening of rights and norms with devastating, real-life impact for women and girls on the ground.
We also see that various forces are systematically undermining women’s rights through changes in legislation and legal systems. The mobilization against particularly sexual and reproductive rights has become more coordinated, well prepared and better funded than before. We see it on a multilateral level, and we see it on the ground.
This requires us to be more consistent in our support to the UN’s normative work, civil society and other actors – but also more creative and well-coordinated.
Because: If women do not enjoy sexual and reproductive health and rights, their political and economic participation is hindered.
It is crucial to not frame women and girls as solely victims of the mentioned challenges of our times. Women and girls are actors.
We know that women have diverse roles and take a lot of responsibility in conflicts. They are mediators, peacemakers and reconstruction actors, combatants and community mobilizers. When women take part in peace negotiations, peace lasts longer.
We know that despite women being vulnerable to climate disasters and crises, they often have a strong body of knowledge and expertise which can be used. Women can, and do, play a crucial role in climate action, for example as food producers and providers of income and welfare in families and in communities. Women and girls’ engagement in climate action is thus of utmost importance for tackling climate change.
Gender equality is a valuable investment. It has been decisive for Norway’s development from poverty to today’s prosperous economy. And it is, and will be, equally important for economic advancement for other countries. No country can afford to not make use of half of its human resources.
Let us be proactive, not just to defend but to advance women’s rights. As 2030 is approaching fast, we must bear in mind that gender equality is not a policy option. It is grounded in human rights, and indispensable for our efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.